SAULT STE. MARIE - On June 18, 2013, local groups which promote passenger train service used on-line technology to meet and form a first-ever network of passenger train advocacy groups in Northern and Eastern Ontario.
Representatives from the following groups and communities participated:
•Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel (CPMRT) (Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Georgian Bay, Township of Muskoka Lakes and Township of Lake of Bays)
•North Bay Area
•Transport Pontiac Renfrew: (Mattawa to Ottawa area)
•Cochrane and Area Ratepayers Cooperative (CARC)
•Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT)
•Transport Acton Ontario (TAO)
Others invited but unable to attend included Nipissing First Nation, Serpent River First Nation, Mushkeygowuk Council, Thunder Bay, Marathon and Sudbury.
The local rail groups have each been working hard in their own corners of Northern Ontario and Eastern Ontario to stop the reckless abandonment of passenger rail service at a time when every other G8 country is investing heavily in rail. At the meeting, they discovered that they have a common determination to have effective train service in order to support their economic development (including tourism), social and health care needs and student travel to and from post-secondary institutions. Tourism alone is suffering terribly as tourists from Europe and Asia, as well as other parts of Canada, tend to select destinations to which they can travel by train.
The groups are delighted that they will now be working together through the new Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network. They can share their research, expertise and experience and together will have a louder voice when trying to influence governments.
The network will be a part of Transport Action Ontario, a province-wide non-government organization advocating for sustainable transportation. As part of an Ontario-wide organization headquartered in Toronto and Ottawa, the network will be heard more clearly by Queen's Park and Ottawa.
Of immediate concern is the need to convince the Ontario government to stop the divestiture of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) and restore passenger train service along the Ontario Northland line from Toronto to Cochrane. There is also an urgent need to restore the passenger rail lines between Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa, Cochrane to Hearst and Thunder Bay to Sudbury.